It is time to once again prepare our hearts for worship. As we prepare for worship I think we need to ask ourselves why we are going to church tomorrow afternoon? Are we going because we like the music? Are we going because we want to see our friends? Are we going to hear an inspirational talk? James Boice reminds us that: “People have lost any real sense of the fact that when we come to church we come to worship and learn about God. Years ago I spoke at a conference and my topic was on a number of the attributes of God. Later I got some feedback from a gentleman who was listening to my presentation. He had been in the church for thirty years, and in fact was now an elder, and that was the first time that he ever heard a series of messages on the attributes of God. And after hearing this his friend asked him, “Well, whom did you think you were worshiping all that time?” But he hadn’t really thought about those things and I’m convinced that we have literally thousands of people in our churches today who really seldom, if ever, think about who it is they are worshiping, if they think about God at all.”
R. Kent Hughes similarly says: “The unspoken but increasingly common assumption… today… is that worship is primarily for us-to meet our needs. Such worship services are entertainment focused, and the worshipers are uncommitted spectators who are silently grading the performance. From this perspective preaching becomes a…preaching to felt needs-man’s conscious agenda instead of God’s. Such preaching is always topical and never textual. Biblical information is minimized,…Anything and everything that is suspected of making the marginal attender uncomfortable is removed from the service, whether it be a registration card or a ‘mere’ creed. Taken to the nth degree, this philosophy instills a tragic self-centeredness. That is, everything is judged by how it affects man. This terribly corrupts one’s theology.”
So, as we prepare for worship we need to remind ourselves that we are not coming to church to be entertained. We are not coming to be uncommitted spectators who grade a performance. We need to remind ourselves as we prepare for worship that we are coming to church to worship and learn about God. John Piper has a great little prayer that would be helpful for all of us to pray before we go to church that says: “Lord, I come. I come to sing to you. I come to pray to you. I come to listen to your Word. I come to enjoy your presence.”
What does it mean then to worship God? James Boice says: “To worship God is to ascribe to him supreme worth, for he alone is supremely worthy. Therefore, the first thing to be said about worship is that it is to honor God. Worship also has bearing on the worshiper. It changes him or her, which is the second important thing to be said about it. William Temple defined worship very well: “To worship is to quicken the conscience by the holiness of God, to feed the mind with the truth of God, to purge the imagination by the beauty of God, to open the heart to the love of God, to devote the will to the purpose of God.”
The Throne of Grace and the Promises of God
As we prepare for worship we may need to reorient our hearts and our minds on God. We need to run to the throne of grace and draw near to the Lord in prayer. James 4:8 is a precious promise that tells us: “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.” We want to be near to God. So, if you are far from God today draw near to the Lord in prayer. Repent of any known sin in your life and plead with God to draw your heart close to him. Pray that the Lord would help you focus on Him, pray that God would raise your affections for Him.
Another way that we can prepare our hearts for worship is just going to the precious promises of God in the Bible. 1st Thessalonians 5:9-10 is a great place to turn. John Piper suggests that everyone memorize these two short verses, which say: “For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him.”
John Piper personalizes these verses and we should to. When he personalized these verses, he said they came: “with precious personal power: “John Piper, you are mine, and I, your Father, have not destined you for wrath…Nor will you ever come into wrath. There is not wrath for you. But you are appointed, by my sovereign decree, for salvation. And this is sure and solid and unshakeable through your Lord, Jesus Christ. Because he died for you. He died for you! So that whether you wake or sleep — that is, whether you live or die — you will live with him.” Forever. Relax. I’ve got everything under control.”
So, we should just spend this afternoon or Sunday morning pondering a precious promise like this, and just think that God has not destined us for wrath, but he has destined us for salvation through Jesus! Wrath is what we deserve, but we get salvation through Jesus, and no wrath, because Jesus bore the wrath reserved for us!
Let’s be sure to pray for Ian and Erin who will once again lead us in worship. Let’s also pray for Jerry as he leads us in a time of confession, and let’s pray for Mark as he will open up God’s Word to us. Mark will be looking at Genesis 42 and possibly some of Genesis 43. Links to the ESV text for both chapters are below:
Picture from here